Most people believe that Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ – it isn’t. Christmas was invented by the Roman government as a way to whitewash pagan Saturnalia celebrations and the rituals practiced during Christmas today are mostly derived of pagan celebrations.
While gift giving has been a significant part of many cultures it was also prominent aspect of the Roman festival Saturnalia, from which Christmas is derived. Saturnalia was the feast at which the the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which originally took place on December 17 and was eventually expanded to December 25th. The gift giving which dominates modern celebrations was heavily influenced by merchants eager to sell more goods.
Santa is a variant of a European folk tale based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, a bishop from present-day Turkey, who gave presents to the poor. The story of Santa Claus was created in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore who wrote down and read to his children a series of verses about Santa. His work was published a year later as “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly known today by its opening line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . .”). Moore gave St. Nick eight reindeer (and named them all), and he devised the now-familiar entrance by chimney. We can thank Mr. Moore for starting the tradition of parent’s telling the Santa Claus story to their children and proving to kids that adults can’t be trusted to tell the truth.
Santa started to become a prominent part of Christmas only after 1841 when J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a “Criscringle” outfit and climb the chimney of his store. Other stores eventually started hiring their own Santa’s and in the 1930’s the modern Santa Claus image was firmly established by a painting for a Coca Cola ad campaign. While other countries have evolved their own versions of Santa, the one developed by American corporations has dominated.
The mysterious Kris Cringle aspect of Santa derives from “Christkindlein”, a german word for Christ Child.
In Germanic pagan traditions a special log was chosen on the eve of Yule for the winter solstice fire. A small piece from last year’s log was used to light the fire in a festive family event. Charred pieces from the fire would be kept to protect the house throughout the coming year.
Kissing Under Mistletoe
Mistletoe does not grow in Israel or near the Mediterranean and could not have been used in any Christian celebrations. However, mistletoe was viewed as a bringer of peace by the Druids and are also present in the Norse myth of Frigga, the Norse Goddess of love, marriage and fertility. Her son, Balder was slain by Loki with an arrow made from mistletoe. When Balder was brought back to life, Frigga blessed the mistletoe and gave a kiss to anyone who passed under it.
The act of cutting a tree off at its base, bringing it indoors to slowly die and hanging shiny baubles on it is certainly not of Christian origin and is even anti-Christ. It shows a lack of respect for the natural beauty of a tree and its life giving qualities. The fact that the tree is later simply thrown out in the garbage is another insult to the tree, life and God’s creation.
Druids and other ancient cultures saw evergreen trees as symbols of everlasting life, because they seemed to live through the winter undaunted by the cold. Using evergreen branches as decorations symbolized the undying strength of the Sun. Romans often cut down evergreens and decorated them to pay homage to Saturn, the god of farming.
Feasting at Christmas derives from pagan sacrifice rituals to the sun god as a bribe to bring an end to winter and from Saturnalia and its feasts.
Not a Christian Celebration
According to the Bible, Christians didn’t celebrate any birthdays and the only mention of a birthday celebration was when the daughter of the Pharaoh was brought the head of John the Baptist as a birthday gift. Early Christians did celebrate the Epiphany, when the baby Jesus was visited by the Magi.
Not Jesus’ Birthday
If one uses the Bible as a guide, Jesus could not have been born on December 25th because the shepherds still had their flocks out in the fields when he was born. In winter the sheep and goats were brought near the villages and towns. A more likely date would have been sometime in the Autumn.
Jews believed that their Prophets died on the same date as they were born or conceived and if Jesus died in the Spring it is not possible to derive a date of December 25 for his conception or birth.
There are simply no reliable historical records of Jesus. The new testament scriptures were written two to three hundred years after the death of Jesus when the Roman government decided to take over Christianity and redefine it in order to use it as a political tool. In the year 204 The Roman Hippolytus was the first to write that Christ was born December 25.
Many of the books used by Christians were destroyed and a new Romanized version of the faith was fabricated along with new books to support the new ideology.
Should it be celebrated?
The reality is that Christmas is deeply rooted in pagan beliefs and heavily influenced by corporate greed. It is a time when parents feel compelled to lie to their children, waste money and resources and go into debt. It is a time when children experience the pangs of greed and the gluttony of excess.
Christmas is a heavy burden for the planet. Tens of millions of trees are killed, millions of animals slaughtered for christmas dinners, millions of tons of greenhouses gases are produced to light the christmas lights, enormous amounts of toxins are produced in the manufacture of needless goods. Billions are spent on needless things when the money could instead be spent on real solutions to urgent problems.
However, it is also a joyous time for many and a time when families get together. Hearts are warmed at Christmas time. People shed many of their inhibition and experience the joy of giving.
Holidays and rituals help us mark the passage of time. But, just because something is expected doesn’t mean that we must participate. It isn’t anti-social or anti-Christian to opt-out of the holiday. If we are to survive as a species we must start questioning why we do the things we do and start making choices based on rational thought and reason. If we are to celebrate something let us do it for the right reasons.
By Bill Phillips Bill Phillips